The 3rd Nello Memorial Century Cycle Challenge
proves to be a real challenge

The long and winding road: centurions and children on Exmoor

This year’s Nello Cycle Challenge, which took place on July 7th, 2002, saw 250 cyclists gather on the Topsham Quay to set off on three separate and grueling routes: the now classic 100 mile pedal over Exmoor and back; a new 55 mile route cunningly devised by Pete ‘The Flying Bean’ which meanders up and down mid-Devon; and, for the children, a challenging ‘mini Tour de France mountain stage’ on top of Exmoor. The cyclists on the Quay made a colourful sight indeed, all dressed in bright cycling gear, and there was a keen buzz of anticipation, if not downright trepidation before the rides got underway. The Lord Mayor of Exeter, Councillor Val Dixon, was kindly on hand and the only slight glitch was when a confused and rather wild looking stray cat ran out in front of the cyclists, just seconds before the Lord Mayor put down the start flag! As has become tradition, the peloton was led out by Nello’s old cycling chums, an always moving and emotional start to the ride. I was alongside John Brandon, who had returned all the way from New Zealand to take part once more.
This was truly the year that the Nello ride went international. Not only did John bring over other Kiwis to take part in the cycle, David Lynn, formerly of Topsham, came over from the USA, together with John Dorsey and Kirsten Williams, who took the opportunity to get married a few days before the ride. Wynn and Marie Davies and family meanwhile came over from Switzerland while Mario and Luisa Fontanta (and baby son Edoardo) represented Italy.
As in previous years, the Nello ride was a massive community event and effort. Many friends and new friends cooked a wonderful array of the most delicious baked goods for the cyclists to enjoy at the support stops along the way, which were invariably manned with enthusiasm, verve and real style. All the cyclists spoke of how these stops helped them to recover, find the energy and the will to continue. Other helpers were on the road to encourage any strugglers and stragglers, and on hand to assist with bicycle repairs or medical assistance if needed. We even had the luxury of a tea urn, transported piping hot to South Molton. How welcome that was!
The half century and the century riders, meanwhile, parted company at the Tiverton stop, with the former heading up the aptly named Long Drag to Nomansland, while the latter struck out to Dulverton and the now familiar testing climb up Winsford Hill to the top of Exmoor. There, the children had gathered (with the help of the “Ian Jay Bike Express”) to begin their 10 mile mountain stage. The day was fine, if chilly and a little overcast, with conditions perfect for cycling. Apart from the odd sore bums, usual aches and pains, occasional spills, and one or two grumbles (“I fell over twice and end up in a cattle grid,” chuntered 9-year old Bella), everybody returned safe and sound which is always a huge relief.
The majority of participants took the Nello century challenge, with around 140 completing the circuit. About 60 chose instead to try the new half century route, while around 50 intrepid children and parents braved the mini Tour de France mountain stage.Those who completed the half century route agreed that this is indeed a testing ride in its own right. “It was much harder than we thought,” was a familiar, accusatory comment. Well, what did you expect? This is the “Nello” after all. Meanwhile those on the hundred mile circuit experienced once more a route that we still consider to be one of the finest century rides anywhere in the world.
As in previous years, the scenes at the finish on Topsham Quay were heroic and joyous, the expressions etched on the riders’ faces that strange and now familiar mixture of pain, relief and exhilaration. Cyclists, proudly wearing their Nello t-shirts and medals, perhaps enjoying a well earned pint, lingered on the Quay, cheering enthusiastically each and every new arrival. A massive cheer went up as the children cycled together on to the Quay, while another huge cheer was raised when Ben Woolner, at 10 years old the youngest centurion for the second year running, arrived with his father John.
Meanwhile an army of willing helpers and volunteers was at work preparing the Topsham Recreation Ground for the ‘picnic in the park’ party, while in kitchens around town an array of brilliant foods was being prepared by some wonderful friends. In the evening, some 400 people gathered to help the cyclists celebrate their achievements. There was, of course, the now traditional Nello pasta feast which was absolutely fantastic, while picnickers sprawled out on the grass, enjoying the traditional jazz band. Ben Cornish, meanwhile, entertained children and adults alike with his infectious mix of juggling, tricks and good natured banter. Everybody must have felt a little deyhdrated from their exertions, for large quantities of liquid refreshments were consumed. It was a truly great finish to the day.
Many are already asking how much money this event will raise for the Force Cancer Support Centre Appeal. A sizeable amount, no doubt, but this all depends, of course, on the goodwill and generosity of the cyclists and those sponsors who they have cajoled and arm-twisted to support them. I am sure that everyone who takes part in this great event understands the importance of this appeal for everybody in our community and that consequently a huge effort will be made to raise as much as possible. When we have a final figure we will of course report it.
Finally, Kim and I on behalf of the Ride for Life team would like to thank everybody who helped to make this year’s Nello Century Cycle Challenge such a great success. It has been a real team effort from a truly great bunch of people and we really appreciate it.
See you next year?

Marc & Kim

A helping hand up 'the hill that never ends'

King of the mountains

The end


The 3rd Nello Century Cycle Challenge Pasta Feast Menu


Tuscan sausages braised in red wine and porcini mushrooms
sausages made by Arthur's Butchers, cooked by Marc, Paola and Christine

Pasta, risotto and polenta
Risotto alla milanese by John Brandon
Torgignlioni al Nello (Toni Littlemore, Ben and Sal Leger) Penne al salmone by Barry and Cathy Parsons
Spaghetti carbonara by Zoe Lasagne al ragł and vegetarian lasagne by Zoe Polenta pasticciata by Paola Nono

Baguettes supplied by cyclist and baker Neil Tubbs of the Crusty Cob

The Wine
Cascina Fontana Barbera d'Alba 1999 (made by and driven over for the event by winemaker Mario Fontana, Castiglione Falletto, Alba)

Find out more about Ride for Life and join us next time for cycling and feasting

Copyright © Marc Millon 2002

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Copyright © Marc and Kim Millon 2001